Image by Andy Thompson

On Tuesday, December 13, I continued my suburban adventures and met with Linda Sickles, director of Orion Township Public Library.

Why did I select OTPL for the 30Y.30L Campaign?  My grandmother. Before her health deteriorated, Georgie was a patron of the Orion Library. Occasionally, when she would babysit me, I recall visiting the library in order for her to pick up the next book in a series in which she was reading.

Orion Township Public Library is located in Lake Orion, Michigan — a suburb in Northern Oakland County which is just south of my hometown. From my home library, Sandusky District Library, OTPL is 75 miles, or 1.5 hours, southwest. In keeping with my other blog posts, OTPL is just 37 miles, or 45 minutes, northwest of Purdy-Kresge Library, home of the School of Library and Information Science, on Wayne State University’s downtown Detroit campus.

From OTPL’s website:

The Orion Township Public Library, established by the Lake Orion Women’s Club in 1926, was first located on the second floor of what is now the Village Hall.

In 1940 it was moved to the Hemingway House on Lapeer Street in the Village of Lake Orion and grew until the floor boards sagged.

In 1964, the first formal library was built on M-24 where the Michigan Catholic Credit Union now stands. Opening in 1965, this building met the community’s needs for the next 23 years.

In 1986, the Orion community passed a bond to create the new Orion Township Public Library to serve the next generation of Orion residents. The 29,000 square foot building opened at its current location on Joslyn Road in February of 1989. Designed to serve a population of 30,000 and house a collection of 100,000 volumes with a capacity for a 200,000 items per year circulation, the new Orion Township Public Library was spacious and inviting, offering quiet study areas, comfortable seating, meeting rooms for community gatherings, and the latest titles, as well as state-of-the-art computers and other new technologies.

Service Area, Size, and Operating Budget
By the name of the library, you can certainly deduce that Orion Township is part of the library’s legal service area. In addition, to Orion Township, the library also covers the Village of Lake Orion. The population in the library’s service area is around 35,000 giving the library a Class 5 designation.

According to the Library of Michigan, a Class 5 library – serves a population of 26,000 to 49,999 and needs to:

  • Be open a minimum of 50 hours per week.
  • Employ (at least 35 hours per week) a director with a Level 1 certificate.

The Library of Michigan further defines a Level 1 certificate as:

(a) A master’s degree or its equivalent from a library school accredited by the American Library Association, and;
(b) Four years of full-time library employment, or its equivalent, after receiving an MLS.

 Other facts and figures:

  • 45 people are employed by OTPL
  • Operating budget: $2.5 million
  • Number of items in the collection: 175,000
  • Annual circulation (2010): 515,000

About the Director
Linda Sickles, who has been in the LIS field a total of 42 years, retired at the end of 2011. (I was very thankful for the opportunity to meet her before she left the agency!) During her tenure with Orion Township Public Library, Linda has been through 8 elections. 

What interested Linda in the field: As a child, she worked in libraries as well as during the summer break while in college. She has always loved finding answers and helping people which was perfect for her work as a reference librarian. Prior to her tenure at OTPL, Linda worked at Baldwin Public Library (Birmingham, Michigan) and Rochester Hills Public Library.

Like so many directors interviewed for this project, Linda’s favorite part of the job entails working with the public. 

On the challenges of librarianship: “Keeping the library in the forefront of people’s minds. Marketing has become a big factor in public libraries. Wherever people are, the library needs to be there, too. You cannot sit back and wait for people.”

Advice to those entering the profession: “Get a broad experience with classes and an internship so that you can apply for any library job out there. Put everything you have into it. No library job should be beneath you.”

Notes and Observations:

Youth Services: Debra, Linda, and Kristen
  • The library is situated off Joslyn Road on 19 picturesque acres. According to Linda, “the major thrust of the building was to invite people in yet keep them with nature.” Large windows and even an outdoor area for patrons help them reconnect with nature while enjoying the literary world.
  • While touring the library, I met three WSU-SLIS alumni who work in youth services at OTPL: Linda Pamuto (2001), Kristen Remenar (2006), and Debra Refior (2008). 
  • The youth services department has had 2,700 program contacts in the last month (as of 12/13).
  • The youth services area has a collection specifically for middle school students. 
  • In the picture book section, small tactile games are mounted on the endcaps. 
  • Like OPL and BTL, Orion Library has a separate room for story time and crafts. A large framed mural that ties together literary elements such as Make Way for Ducklings with the Lake Orion area adorns one of the walls in the room.
  • I appreciated the fact that signage was available in the juvenile non-fiction section to direct patrons to specific subjects within the collection. 
  • Due to weeding efforts, the adult non-fiction collection has stabilized and additional shelving has not been needed.
  • Like Brown City Public Library, OTPL is also a voting precinct; however, a large, separate meeting room is available which means that the library does not need to suspend services to patrons.  
  • The library displays local artwork that changes every month — very popular with patrons. 
  • A quilt on display in the lobby features scenes from Old Lake Orion.
  • Like Brandon Township Library, OTPL has a vending machine available for patrons in the lobby area; however, in the case of OTPL, it is a Keurig coffee station. 
  • Hartzell-Mika Consulting, which is co-owned by Professor Emeritus Joseph Mika, WSU’s School of Library and Information Science, is assisting with the search for a new Library Director. 
  • The library uses retail-oriented display methods. 
  • Friends of the Library book sale brings in around $1,000 a month in proceeds.
  • OTPL has a separate room geared especially for teens. 
  • A separate room houses the library’s local history and genealogy collections. 
  • Like Harbor Beach Area District Library, OTPL has grocery-style hand baskets available to make browsing for books easier!